Open Letter to Owen Sound City Council

In December 2019, I attended a council meeting with my daughters to support a local group of students as they made their deputation to council, along with a petition of 674 names, asking council to implement a response to climate change.

And what better time than now, they argued, before the city takes on updating their official and strategic plan. The room was full and the energy was high as we came to support their efforts, came to support our future and our children’s future.

Our kids were stepping up to make change in a world that worries them, a future that is in question. They brought concerns to council, being supported by other residents, offering to volunteer on any task force dealing with climate change. This was such a positive experience in so many ways, it’s hard to believe how sour it turned.

In January of last year a motion was brought forward to hire a climate change co-ordinator to address the issues raised at the December meeting. It was passed. As a planner, this made a lot of sense to me, getting someone on board before undertaking a long-term plan. Obviously, climate change would need to be addressed as it is already happening and affecting us.

But then on January 27th Councillor Marion Koepke presented a motion to delay that hiring. She had received many phone calls. (Apparently more than the number of people who attended the December meeting, and signed petitions in favour of taking action. She must’ve been on the phone for days.)

Sadly, her motion passed and the city backed down, preferring the comfort of the status quo to taking action. We were snowed. Worse than that, the kids were snowed.

And now the draft plan is out with nary a mention of climate change. How can any municipality in 2021 do a long-term plan without considering climate change? It is a great dereliction of duty and requires a wilful blindness to pull off.

At that December 2019 meeting Councillor. Richard Thomas introduced a motion passed unanimously, directing staff to prepare a report detailing actions the city might take to deal with climate change, including a suggested course of action detailing how to meet United Nations emissions targets of 45 per cent by 2030 and net-zero by 2050.

Where is that plan? How does Owen Sound intend to meet its emission targets? You promised us, you promised our children.

- Diane Ferguson